Monday, November 28, 2011

Styrofoam Hell

I'm sitting in a Starbucks, listening to a 19-year-old barista whining, "I give up. I just give up!" I'm shaking my head, thinking, She can't handle the pressure of working in an almost-empty Starbucks??

When I was her age, I spent a summer working swing shift on the production line at a styrofoam cup factory. Eight hours a day (unless I did overtime), I stood at a machine that shoved 30 cups into a plastic bag and sealed it. The work was so arduous that the factory hired 4 people for each job, assuming that 3 of them would quit before the end of their first shift. I didn't bother to complain: no one could've heard me over the machine noise, and everyone wore earplugs.

Anyone who has ever worked a swing shift knows that the job's special hell: you can never get your sleep cycle in tune with your work. We did a week on the midnight-to-8 am shift, a week on the 8 am-to-4 pm shift, followed by a week on the 4 pm-to-midnight shift. Several times I almost got in car accidents, falling asleep while driving home after my shift. And, in the summer, the day shift was scorching; you sweated right through your clothes. I started carrying a waterproof, velcro-sealed camper's wallet, so I wouldn't sweat on my money.

A few years later, when the styrofoam cup factory closed, it was declared a superfund site. So it probably wasn't a particularly healthy place to work.

Still, it's all relative. A few years prior to that, a lot of guys my age were on patrol in rice paddies in Vietnam. They would've loved to trade places with me.

But that girl who can't handle working in a clean, air-conditioned Starbucks has some serious challenges in store for her!

No comments:

Post a Comment